By JIM DAVENPORT
The Associated Press
Sunday, November 4, 2007; 2:57 AM
SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama told voters Saturday that in the wake of President Bush's "catastrophic failure of leadership" the nation needs a candid leader like himself, not rival Hillary Rodham Clinton's calculated politics.
Bush failed with handling of the Iraq war, spread fear and fumbled with Hurricane Katrina, Obama said.
"This catastrophic failure of leadership has led us to a moment where it's not just Democrats who are listening to what we have to say, but independents and Republicans who have never been more disillusioned with what the state of our leadership in Washington has done to this country," Obama told an audience of about 850 at Converse College in Spartanburg.
He said Clinton is running a textbook campaign based on political calculation, rather than a candid explanation of her policy positions. And, he widened blame for the nation's problems to her husband's and previous administrations.
The 2008 election is "a chance to come together and finally solve the challenges that were made worse by George Bush, but that in fact existed long before George Bush took office. Challenges like health care. Challenges like energy. Challenges like education."
It was a subtle swipe at former President Bill Clinton, who campaigned in South Carolina for his wife earlier this week.
"It is disappointing that as his campaign stalls, Senator Obama is abandoning the politics of hope and launching a negative campaign against both Senator and President Clinton," Clinton campaign spokesman Zac Wright responded. "Most Americans thought Bill Clinton was a good president who moved America forward."
Republican National Committee spokesman Brian Walton took exception to Obama's characterization of Bush, saying: "A rookie Senator with no accomplishments of his own doesn't have much credibility when it comes to leadership."
Obama called the New York senator "a colleague and a friend," but then heaped criticism on her. "She's a skilled politician and she's run so far what Washington would call a textbook campaign," he said. "The problem I have and the disagreement we have is with the textbook itself."
That textbook teaches nothing about bringing the nation together and "encourages vague, calculated answers to suit the politics of the moment instead of clear, consistent principles about how you would lead America. It teaches you you can promise progress for everyday people while striking a bargain with the various special interests that crowd them out."
That "usually gets politicians where they need to go, but I don't believe it gets America to where we need to go," he said.
Obama said a 2008 Republican opponent "won't be able to say that I was for the war in Iraq before I was against it. They won't be able to say that I supported an extension of the Iraq war into Iran. They won't be able to say that I support Bush-Cheney diplomacy of not talking to leaders we don't like," Obama said. Those are all lately points that Obama's campaign has highlighted as contrasts with Clinton.